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Spotify considered ending Uber partnership amid mounting scandals

‘Staying on Uber is not a straightforward decision,’ head of product says in internal email

Daniel Ek, CEO and Founder of Spotify.
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Daniel Ek, CEO and Founder of Spotify.

As criticism of Uber has mounted over the past month, one of its most prominent partners has discussed whether to continue its relationship with the company. Spotify decided not to participate in a press campaign about an upcoming update to the Uber app, The Verge has learned. In an internal company-wide email, the company's head of product refers to discussions the company held about ending Uber's API access, which allows riders to control a driver's sound system from their smartphones.

"For me, given the views I've shared with you regarding Uber and the practices that have been on display there recently, even staying on Uber is not a straightforward decision," wrote Gustav Söderström, Spotify's head of product. "But it also doesn't feel right to punish our users by pulling support for the API. I'd rather try to change behaviour by participating and showcasing what we believe in."

"Even staying on Uber is not a straightforward decision."

Söderström's email comes after a series of missteps at the ride-hailing giant, which included a blockbuster account of sexism from a former engineer, a widely viewed video of CEO Travis Kalanick insulting a driver, and a report about an internal effort to skirt local regulations.

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The internal debate at Spotify suggests that at least one of Uber's partners have become wary of associating with a company that has lately been almost as well known for its scandals as it has its transportation service. Some early Uber investors have also sought to distance themselves from the company, presumably in part over fears that the association would damage future investment prospects.

Uber added Spotify integration in 2014, giving riders the ability to control drivers' sound systems. Pandora was added as an alternate option last September. An app redesign last year removed Spotify and Pandora from the app; that feature is apparently set to return in an upcoming update. The music streaming integration is part of Uber's efforts to get riders to use its app during trips, which will create opportunities for the company to sell advertising, among other things.

Spotify and Uber declined to comment.

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